vacuum cleaner
My few rugs do have to be vacuumed.

I am going to admit this: I don’t really like cleaning, especially vacuuming. Fortunately, there is a lot less vacuuming required by the hardwood floors of my current house than in some of the carpeted apartments I have lived it.

Less, but not none.

Sirius Black, like many animals, highly dislikes the high-pitched motor of the vacuum. We’ve worked on desensitization, so he is no longer afraid of it, just uncomfortable around it. Unfortunately, unlike Nefertiti, who also dislikes it, he won’t head for the farthest reaches of the house when he sees me pull it out. Instead, he tends to lie down somewhere close where he can watch me. Most often, the spot he chooses is right on the rug or floor I am planning to vacuum.

This is where training for real life has it’s moment to shine.

I have written before about training relaxation and down on a mat. I teach this exercise in all my classes and to most of my private clients. I recommend it for dogs with anxiety, and also for dogs who tend to get underfoot while you are cooking.

And, I use it myself. Including, while I vacuum.

dog on blanket
Sirius Black on his mat in the kitchen—away from the vacuum cleaner!

Recently, as I was about to vacuum the living room, Sirius Black lay down on the edge of the living room rug. I pulled a bag of his treats out of the fridge and unfolded his mat on the kitchen floor, where he would be close enough to watch me, but not in the path of the vacuum cleaner.

Immediately, he lay down on the mat, waiting to be rewarded. He was no longer concerned about the vacuum.

As I vacuumed the rug, I stopped periodically to toss him a few treats. When I was done with the vacuuming, I picked up the mat and put it away.

The entire thing took very little more time than it would have taken to vacuum the rug without Sirius in the house, and significantly less than having to repeatedly move him out of the way of the vacuum as he got increasingly nervous. Plus, I have laid groundwork for a new habit that will make future vacuuming easier.

I would call that a success.

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